Source:Jonathan Kay    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/

Barbara Kay: Radio-Canada admits bias in the presentation of allegedly objective propaganda film

Like most other Canadians, I rarely watch the billion-a-year-taxpayer-funded CBC. So I'm grateful to the people who watch it like a hawk - not for pleasure, but as a moral duty - and bring us word of the left wing bias that permeates the CBC's organizational and creative culture. The Post has been at the forefront of Ceeb-watching for its entire decade of existence, and has often been the first to catch errors, omissions and purposeful deceptions in CBC broadcasting. It's sad that a national broadcaster should need this kind of citizen oversight, but thanks to that legion of sharp eyes and ears, and an honest ombudsman, the English version of the CBC doesn't get away very often - or at least for very long - with lapses of journalistic ethics.

Not so the case with Radio-Canada, the francophone arm of the mother corporation. Hardly anyone with a critical eye is watching them. So they get away with stuff the English arm can't. It's easy to figure out why. For one thing the CBC is susceptible to criticism from the entire anglosphere, increasingly so as stories pass from keyboard to keyboard and screen to screen in this age of instant connectivity. French-language media in North America operate in a bubble of anonymity. And for another, francophone viewers are exposed to a very short spectrum of ideological perspectives, essentially running from liberal to left to very left wing.

Moreover, in terms of their window on the world, Radio-Canada journalists are influenced by the media in France. The French media are particularly biased about the Middle East. Their natural sympathies lie with the Arabs, in keeping with France's longstanding special relationship with the Arab world and in particular France's former colonies, which inspire the kind of guilt in the French that the sin of slavery does in Americans.  All Arab nations are harshly anti-Zionist. Add in the political naiveté and critical passivity of Quebec's viewership, and it's an invitation to slide from reportage to propagandizing.

And that is precisely what happened in the case of a documentary called Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, which can be viewed here in English and here in French. The film aired October 23 on Radio-Canada's program, Les Grands Reportages. This U.S. made documentary was produced by the Media Education Foundation. It was a partial update of a documentary shot four years ago, before Israel's exit from Gaza, yet was introduced by animator Simon Durrivage as though Gaza were still occupied, and projected as an objective overview of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

But the film is nothing more than anti-Zionist agitprop, a one-sided polemic rife with errors and omissions, bent on demonizing Israel. The film even offered "special thanks" in its credits to overtly pro-Palestinian groups, such as Electronic Intifadah, Al Awda, International Solidarity Movement, and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. The film was dedicated to the notoriously anti-Zionist Palestinian activist, the late Edward Said. No Israeli perspective was offered in the film.

Furthermore the film was in breach of CBC's own published standards and guidelines on documentaries, which state: "Great caution should be taken to protect the integrity of the Corporation's impartiality in information programming and its independence of special interest groups...In considering such works of opinion or argument for broadcast, the CBC has to assure fairness and balance by other means. The CBC should also guard against political or economic interest groups and lobbies exploiting this avenue." CBC/Radio-Canada's programmers are supposed to ensure that "a production should be of particular excellence and pertinence in the eyes of the CBC" and more to the point in this case, "should be prominently identified as a work of opinion at the beginning and at the end" and that "the CBC must be completely satisfied that this work is financed independently from any party having a direct interest in the issue." Manifestly, these standards were not met in the airing of Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land.

It was a small media watch group called HonestReporting Canada that picked up this lapse in journalistic ethics. It took patience and perseverance, but they were successful in extracting an acknowledgment that the host's introduction was poorly presented and taken out of context. Radio-Canada also committed to air additional "documentaries providing different perspectives on the situation in Israel and Gaza." The Director of Complaints for French Services admitted to complainants that the film was "clearly pro-Palestinian."

This looks like a coup for HonestReportingCanada, and a victory for the ideal of ethical journalism everywhere. Yet the result obtained - the promise to air a "pro-Israel" documentary - is not the point, and not what was asked for. What viewers should be getting is unbiased reportage period, not pro or anti anyone. Had HonestReportingCanada not been on the ball, Radio-Canada's viewing audience would only have been exposed to a pro-Palestinian perspective.

The question remains: As the film did not adhere to Radio-Canada's journalistic standards, where are the quality control checks that should have ensured Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land was not aired in the first place? HonestReportingCanada is calling for a formal review of the matter. Let us hope Radio-Canada does precisely that, recognizing that this error in judgment reflects a systemic bias in the culture of their organization.

Source:Jonathan Kay    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/

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